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Voter Outreach effort stresses importance of casting ballots to local students

Claire Wilson, director of Voter Outreach for the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, spoke with Park Rapids and Menahga seniors last week. (Submitted photo)

Claire Wilson, director of Voter Outreach for the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, conducted two voter information workshops in Park Rapids last week.

The Park Rapids League of Women Voters arranged for Wilson to speak with Park Rapids and Menahga school seniors and with new voters. The Secretary of State is the chief elections officer in Minnesota and works closely with county and local election officials to administer elections.

During both presentations, Wilson discussed how Minnesota's voting system currently works. With the students she also discussed how important it is to vote. Every vote does count and this is especially true of local races in which as few as 10 votes can make the difference, she said.

The first step is to register. The information from a one-page form is checked by the county auditor against a database called the Statewide Voter Registration System. This information is renewed nightly. If no match is found in that system, the auditor checks with the Social Security Administration. The information is also checked with the courts and with county records to make sure the voter is eligible. Then the name is added to the appropriate precinct roster.

When voters sign the roster on Election Day, they are signing a legal oath as to their identity. Currently a voter can register at the polls on Election Day (known as same-day registration) by bringing in a utility bill with their current address or having someone vouch for them. Many students use this system because they move more often. Senior citizens who live in residential facilities also use this system as they often vote at their facilities.

Wilson stated the Minnesota election system is one of the best in the U.S. Minnesota regularly has the highest voter turn out of any state and in the last presidential election, nearly 500,000 people used same-day registration. After the last two elections, there were major recounts in close elections and the results showed the state's voting system is sound with no voter fraud and only 132 ineligible people voting. These are often felons who vote when they are still on probation, but are unaware of their voting status.

On the Secretary of State's website, www.sos. page =134 voters can check to see if they are registered, find a sample ballot and locate links to candidate websites if they submitted them.

The League had registration applications available at Tuesday's events and has registered 47 voters. Voters have until Oct. 16 to pre-register and the League will have applications available at the Oct. 16 candidate forum being held at 6:30 p.m. at the Northwoods Bank Community Room.